The Secret Tradition of the Soul

If, like me, you enjoyed Patrick Harpur's Daimonic Reality and The Philosophers' Secret Fire, then you'll probably be very happy to learn that he has a new book due out next week (Oct 18) - and it looks fascinating. Titled The Secret Tradition of the Soul, the book...

...argues that answers to life’s most difficult questions — the meaning of life, the nature of self, and the existence of an afterlife — can be met by a visionary tradition that runs through Western culture, The Secret Tradition of the Soul Book Coverfrom Greek philosophy and Renaissance alchemy to Romantic poetry and modern depth psychology. This hidden tradition, according to Harpur, places our soul at the center of the universe and emphasizes imagination, the collective unconscious, and an “otherworld” or afterlife; above all, it teaches us how to know ourselves and how to recover a sense of meaning largely lost today. Harpur shows how this tradition drives the literature of otherworld journeys, from the flights of shamans and the dreams of psychoanalysis to the mystic imagination of Romantic poets and the visions of those having near-death experiences. The Secret Tradition of the Soul is the first book to gather together all the threads of the soul tradition and weave them into a bigger, clearer picture, presenting a worldview at once ancient and revolutionary.

Get it while it's hot!

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Grail-seeker's picture
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25 November 2004
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6 hours 29 min

About time I read me some Harpur, he's right up my street.

Grail-seeker (a.k.a. Perceval)

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Grail-seeker's picture
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25 November 2004
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Certainly it would be cheaper than attending one of his courses :/

Grail-seeker (a.k.a. Perceval)

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daydreamer's picture
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21 February 2009
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I've recently been revisiting criticisms of theological harmonisation - that branch of theology that aims to bring together a unified story of the New testament by harmonising into a single 'sprit' the conflicting aspects of the accounts of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John.

The general style of this approach seems to be to draw general themes from the gospels and ignore such things as chronology or geography.

The argument against this is that doing so may harmonise the stories for a modern audience and culture, but that by doing so you actually remove the information that tells you about what each author was attempting to do, and why. I guess in essence you remove their culture and meaning and overlay your own - to varying degree's.

So when we look through many different ancient cultures and beliefs and pick and pull out just the bits to build the story we want to tell from our modern perspective we miss the details of the ancient beliefs and cultures.

Thats with biblical harmonisation though, but the excerpt above reminded me enough of it to wonder whether this is another version of harmonisation? I would read this book wondering whether there are many secret traditions of the soul and that by picking different data sources you can build many other pictures.

That might not seem fair - after all I have not read it so it is only a question I have, but it is formed by the claim above, not just my own skepticism

Quote:

The Secret Tradition of the Soul is the first book to gather together all the threads of the soul tradition and weave them into a bigger, clearer picture, presenting a worldview at once ancient and revolutionary

I would be really quite interested to see whether it was really possible to 'weave them into a... clearer picture' when historically this has proven an especially difficult subject when trying to avoid simply writing about your own beliefs.

I don't doubt that it is possible to harmonise groups of them into a clearer version more culturally relative to our own by pulling together some strands and leaving out others though.

Very interesting if Patrick Harpur has managed to avoid these pitfalls - for me as much to know how he has done it methodologically. Since I'm still learning.

Grail-seeker's picture
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The quote makes it obvious that there is an assumption that the threads were once woven more tightly together, but have since come apart - a natural consequence of the ups and downs of human cultural development. The idea of weaving together such strands is itself (and always has been) integral to the development of tradition.

More fundamentally, there is an assumption that the various threads of tradition refer to a universal reality...

Grail-seeker (a.k.a. Perceval)

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daydreamer's picture
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As a side note I listened today to a lecture on mortality salience and how self esteem is protected and enhanced by taking conflictual aspects of others cultures and adapting them into ones own cultures in a way that disarms them. Harmonisation is one approach to this.

This serves as one aspect of cultural harmonisation. Others being close-mindedness and even oppression and the dismantling of conflicting cultural ideas by the state and through the use of force.

Assuming threads in some way reference and reinforce one's own beliefs in a compatible manner is one way of consuming other cultures in a safe way, and disarming them in the process.

Your comment that

Quote:

The idea of weaving together such strands is itself (and always has been) integral to the development of tradition.

reminded me of this.

As for the book I'm only wondering how he has gotten around not simply referencing ever time anyone in any culture has written about the soul as evidence for any particular soul hypothesis, but obviously without reading it there is little point discussing it specifically.

kamarling's picture
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Just bought the smaller/cheaper new Kindle and am looking for titles with the old TDG appeal. Surprised how many seem to miss out on the Kindle format.

Patrick Harpur has some Kindle titles so it worth waiting for a Kindle edition of this one, or will that never happen?